Gordie and me

Sorry but I have to plow an old bit of field today.

Gordie Howe has had a serious stroke and is not at all well. That sort of news matters to me.

I have written here at least twice – April 4, 2013 and Sept. 18, 2007 – on Howe and when I saw him play at the Halifax Forum in the fall of 1968 in an NHL pre-season game.

So, I won’t recount chapter and verse all of that again. But I will tell you it was one of the greatest days of my then-young life and it is still a memory I cherish.

When I was at the Halifax Forum two months ago to watch Pad work out with his new teammates at Dal, it was the first time I had been inside the forum for hockey in decades. And all the memories of going there with dad and my cousin Michael came flooding back.

I think dad and I saw a few Nova Scotia Vees games over the intervening years at the forum, but none of them stand out. Continue reading

Life, liberty and the pursuit of indifference

I used to joke that you couldn’t swing a dead cat in Oakville without hitting a former NHL player. There are a lot of them here. They walk among us.

After last night’s municipal election, I’m going to change that to you can’t swing a dead cat in Oakville – or anywhere in southern Ontario – without hitting a hypocrite.

When the polls opened on Monday it was almost exactly five days to the minute since a deranged gunman in Ottawa murdered an unarmed reservist standing watch at the tomb of the unknowns at the national War Memorial. The gunman then raced to Parliament Hill, ran through the Centre Block apparently intent on more carnage and was killed in a gun fight with security personnel.

Canadians were shocked by the attacks and saddened over the murder of Nathan Cirillo, by all accounts a great young man and exactly the sort of guy we visualize when we think of those standing on guard for us. The outpouring of grief Friday as his body was driven from Ottawa to Hamilton was real. And for a brief time, we seemingly understood the price of freedom, we seemingly understood what those bronze soldiers immortalized at the War Memorial stood for, for all eternity.

It turns out most of us have short memories. Continue reading

Sunday morning catch up

I didn’t post on Friday. I can sometimes miss a weekday or two but I usually find a way to post something on Fridays. So today, a Sunday post, the implication of which is I may have nothing left for Monday. We’ll see.

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The procession Friday from Ottawa to Hamilton along the Highway of Heroes and and the final trip home for Nathan Cirillo moved the entire country. Laura’s Blackberry hummed Friday evening with messages from friends who . . . just needed to tell someone how sad they were.

Last Wednesday was an awful day and lots of people will be thinking about those events for weeks and months. With Nov 11 two weeks away, you can bet the media won’t let us forget until after that.

It may — may — be too soon to say definitively that Cirillo’s cowardly killer was simply a demented, mentally ill soul tortured by demons and that he was not the thin edge of a radical 5th column of an international terror group. But it sure looks like that in the early going.

We should all be prudent in rushing to think we understand all the circumstances, and that also goes for the government, which hopefully will not overreach in its reaction, either.

Maybe there will be more money to help the mentally ill in addition to whatever security and surveillance measures come forth. Continue reading


Somewhere between the tragedy and overwrought hand wringing there is truth and insight about and into what happened in Ottawa on Wednesday morning.

I do not presume to be able to deliver much on either score but having spent most of the 1990s working on Parliament Hill and knowing a little about the mechanics of government and being a parent and husband who would chew off an arm to keep my family safe . . . I have some opinions. As do you, no doubt.

Ottawa needs no platitudes from me. It was a wonderful city Tuesday and still is today. It has staggeringly beautiful natural gifts and stunning neo-gothic architecture in the Parliamentary precincts. Dozens and dozens of kilometres of bike paths along rivers and the canal. Chris was born there and Pad started to grow up there. Our memories of Ottawa are deeply personal and all good. We still have many, many very good friends in Ottawa.

Contrary to what many will tell you, Ottawa didn’t lose its innocence yesterday and neither did Canada. Memories are short in politics but soldiers with machine guns in armoured vehicles patrolled Ottawa in October 1970. People died in a siege on Turkey’s embassy in 1985. There was a bus hijacking on Parliament Hill in 1989. No, folks. Ottawa is well familiar with how the bad guys roll.

And three weeks out from Nov 11, let’s not kid ourselves that Ottawa or Canada lost its innocence yesterday. We lost our innocence at Vimy Ridge and Normandy and Dieppe and dozens of other foreign battlefields. Canada pulled on its big boy pants a long time ago. Continue reading

Zombies. Leafs. Plus ça change

About a year ago, intrigued by Pad’s devotion to the show, I started watching The Walking Dead.

It was already a popular phenomenon, but now it’s possibly the most watched network show in North America. What that says about us, I’m not sure.

The premise of the show: a southern US deputy is shot by a perp during a routine traffic arrest. When he wakes – weeks or months later, it’s not clear – the hospital is under siege. Mostly everyone is dead, there are dead cops and military types everywhere. He wanders out in the street looking for home and eventually finds the world divided into two camps: “normal” survivors like him, and literally, walking dead people who like to attack the survivors. Things go downhill from there. For years.

The walking dead types are non verbal, and have no interest in personal hygiene. They can smell out living people, seemed to like eating them, but they move slow.

It’s violent. It’s gruesome and gory. And now into its 6th season, the show is completely without any hope for the survivors. Imagine almost everyone in Toronto was a zombie, except maybe for a few thousand normal folks. Continue reading

Lawsuit Night in Canada

Hockey is a dirty, rough, tough sport. And that’s off the ice.

A class action lawsuit has been launched again the Canadian Hockey League – the umbrella association for all three major junior leagues in Canada – alleging it violated a long list of labour and workplace laws, including underpaying its athletes. The suit has a figure of $180 million attached to it but any reporter will tell you such numbers are meaningless, they are usually put on to make headlines.

The CHL denies the allegations. At the centre of the suit as the claim representative is Sam Berg, 18-year-old son of former Leaf journeyman Bill Berg. His story is an ugly one.

None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court. Continue reading

Friday follies; more short snappers

I got some email from people after yesterday’s fun-filled glimpse into the abyss. No really. You’re welcome. Next week, a fun retrospective on The Plague is in the works.

In fairness to myself most people candidly admitted that it hadn’t occurred to them to frame the crisis the way I did. I just have a knack for applying my sunny disposition to life and creating doomsday scenarios out of thin air. It’s a gift.

But as if to illustrate my point about how random something like this can spread and the numbers of people who could potentially be exposed might be, there’s this.

News out of Dallas that a health care worker who handled Ebola samples from the patient in Dallas is . . . on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The good news is that so far that person is showing no signs of infection and is isolated on the ship. Continue reading

Wakey, wakey

I’m not exactly a hysterical alarmist when it comes to natural and manmade disasters, plagues, pestilence and other nasty things sent along to test us humans.

Generally, a career in journalism is cut short if you answer a phone about a massive train crash and your first reaction is anything other than covering the story.

I’ve been watching the evolution of the Ebola story with more than passing interest for several months and today I’m here to tell you that if you are not also paying attention, it’s really time to start. It’s not time to panic. It’s time to pay attention.

I welcome all manner of jokes about The Walking Dead and more people dying annually from obesity, alcohol, car wrecks, whatever, than Ebola has collective claimed thus far.

If you decide to take those numbers as your umbrella, you are all wet already. Continue reading

Babies, dryer lint and other burning questions

The trouble with long weekends is the end of long weekends.

Not sure how to fix that, short of outright retiring and given the demands on the family bank accounts right now with two kids in university and neither one willing to generate revenue from selling non-vital organs for cash, Laura and I keep working.

But the weekend behind us was not without its pleasant moments. There’s truly nothing as relaxing as flaking out in front of the TV for two hours to watch a movie that you want to watch. (That was me yesterday afternoon watch The Monument Men, which I had never heard of before but featured George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchette. It won’t go down in history as a work of genius, but I liked it.)

And the weekend weather was terrific. I’ve always liked fall and this weekend was autumn writ large: cool, not cold. Blue skies. No rain.

Sadly that was perfect for packing away the summer outdoor furniture, draining the garden hoses, shutting off the exterior taps and generally battening down the hatches. November, need I remind you, is now just over two weeks away. Continue reading

The land of plenty

A short post for a long weekend. I missed boring you yesterday, so lucky you, or opps, sorry.

Thanksgiving is among my favourite holiday weekends. I love the autumn, which is probably the main reason. When I was a kid I found the return of school, or starting university, and all those things exciting and new. I like the clear skies and crisp air and the leaves, while they are still on the trees.

When the make their way to the ground, I like them less. As empty-nesters-in-training, we are looking forward to a noisy house this weekend, and some of us are looking more forward to it than others.

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Pad, of course, won’t be here. He has hockey. He has school. And even in the absence of hockey he would just get home from Halifax and it would be time to go back. Continue reading


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